Nigel Adkins brought Southampton into the Premier League, but some ruthless decision-making brought Mauricio Pochettino in. Nick Miller looks at how the Saints have performed over the season...
By Nick Miller
Last Updated: 24/05/13 6:44am
A slightly curious first season back in the Premier League for Southampton. At the beginning of the campaign, survival would surely have been the only real aim, and survival they have achieved. However, the dismissal of Nigel Adkins (to some consternation in the stands), plus a wobble towards the end of the season that put them in danger of relegation, and even after that was avoided shifted them down the table, may have taken the gloss off their season.
Add to that the uncertainty over the future of both Nicola Cortese and Mauricio Pochettino, after a dispute between the chief executive and the Liebherr trust that owns the club led to Cortese threatening to leave and Pochettino claiming he would go with him. The dispute has now been resolved, but so central is Cortese's role in the development of the club that Saints fans would be forgiven for feeling a little uncertain as the season ends.
Still, overall the campaign can only be regarded as a success, particularly when one remembers wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, particularly considering the way Reading, who finished above them in the Championship last season, have struggled. And with some of the youngsters that have broken through, there can be plenty of optimism for Southampton's future.
Player of the Year
Despite Rickie Lambert continuing his slightly unlikely run of scoring through the divisions, and the emergence of young talent like Luke Shaw and Nathanial Clyne, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is really the only choice. The days are gone when unspectacular types like the Frenchman can go under the radar or be regarded as unsung heroes, a point Schneiderlin went some way to proving by picking up both Southampton fans' and players' player of the year awards. Schneiderlin has been linked with a move to Arsenal, but the good news for Saints fans is he sounds quite happy where he is.
Ratings Player of the Year
There's a tie at the top of our experts' player ratings for Southampton, with young left-back Shaw and attacking midfielder Adam Lallana taking the joint honours. However, Lallana is out on his own at the top of the fans' ratings, pipping top-scorer Lambert to that particular title.
Breakthrough Player of the Year
It would be tough to look beyond the remarkable Shaw, who has been on the radar of some of the biggest clubs in the land for some time, but made his breakthrough into the first team this season, and looked at home from the first moment. It seems incredible that a full-back of Shaw's presence and assurance is only 17, looking completely unfazed by life in the top flight. In fact, right-wingers would be justified in asking to see Shaw's birth certificate to verify his age, after the third or fourth time he casually nicks the ball off their toe and advances up the pitch. A star in the making, and perhaps Ashley Cole's long-term successor in the England side.
Signing of the Year
The big name signing last summer was Gaston Ramirez, with Southampton beating the likes of Liverpool and some of Italy's big boys to the Uruguayan's signature, but it's arguably a recruit from a little closer to home that has made a bigger impact. Jay Rodriguez looked pretty expensive at £7million, but he has performed well in his debut campaign, and it is perhaps his adaptability that has made him such an asset, able to play alongside Lambert up front or in wide positions. A word too for Nathanial Clyne, who has looked at home in the Premier League after arriving from Crystal Palace.
Could do better
The defence as a whole remains a concern, with three goalkeepers used to varying degrees of success over the season, and centre-backs Joos Hooiveld, Maya Yoshida and Jose Fonte often caused moments of what we might diplomatically call 'concern' over the season. A couple of defenders should be recruited in the summer, and while Artur Boruc has stabilised the keeping situation after a rocky start for himself, Kelvin Davies and Paulo Gazzaniga, more quality between the sticks may be required as well.
The jury probably remains out on Pochettino. While the theory behind his appointment was sound, with Cortese bringing in a bigger and possibly more progressive name to build on the excellent work of Adkins, Pochettino's record since taking over is very similar to his predecessor's. Of course, Saints fans will hope that their manager remains to build on some of the work he has started this season, but he will have to offer more tangible improvements to fully justify Cortese's decision.
Jamie Redknapp's view
Southampton will be happy to finish where they have. Mauricio Pochettino has got plaudits for steering them clear of relegation but it's difficult to say they've done better with him in charge - Nigel Adkins may well have got the same results. It's all hypothetical. Next season, once Pochettino has had a full pre-season at the club, we can judge whether it was the right move to bring him in. At times this year they've been really good and they've managed to raise their levels for the big games, but at other times they've been really poor. So there is work to do over the summer.